Universal cover call

FEARS ambulance costs prevent heart attack victims from phoning Triple Zero have prompted the National Heart Foundation to call for universal ambulance cover.

While Ambulance Victoria said its “comprehensive ambulance insurance scheme” was designed to avoid those scenarios, NHF research showed cost was a genuine impediment among those without ambulance cover and would prevent many from calling Triple Zero if they thought they were having a heart attack.

In a statement to the The Express AV chief executive officer Greg Sassella said it offered membership which provided “cover throughout Australia for less than 25 cents a day for a full family.”

“Government covers the cost for pensioners with concession cards and low income Victorians with health care cards through its concession scheme,” he added.

NHF, however, said its research identified cost as a barrier for calling Triple Zero “for up to 650,000 people”, resulting in extended delays to treatment for people with life-threatening conditions.

Mr Sassella said since reductions to AV membership costs were announced last year, membership in this state had grown by an additional 46,393 with more than one million Victorian households now being members.

According to national NHF chief executive Dr Lyn Roberts, “sadly, of the 10,000 people who die of heart attack each year, 50 per cent fail to even make it to hospital because they took too long to call Triple Zero.”

Dr Robert said in a national survey of more than 11,000 people, 43.5 per cent of respondents outside of Queensland and Tasmania (states which already had universal ambulance cover) and who are not covered for an ambulance said it would be too expensive to call Triple Zero if they thought they were experiencing a heart attack.

“What this research highlights is that the ambulance service is an integral part of heart attack care, not just a transport service,” Dr Roberts said.

“Universal ambulance cover’ means every Australian has the opportunity to promptly access free ambulance care in times of an emergency, without having to worry about whether they can afford it or not,” she said.

While Dr Roberts said NHF recognised the issue would “take some time to solve”, it planned to discuss the matter with all governments over coming months to “work out how this could best be achieved”.

Ms Sassella said AV worked “closely” with organisations including NHF, Stroke Foundation and Asthma Foundation “to help education the public about when it is vital to call an ambulance”.

A copy of NHF’s position statement is available at www.heartfoundation.org.au/driving-change/warning-signs-heart-attack/Pages/Universal-Ambulance-Cover.aspx

To get ambulance cover visit